THE capital city of Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa, Asmara has some of the greatest modernist architectures in the world, earning it the moniker “Africa’s Secret Modernist City” and the recognition of being a Unesco World Heritage Site last year. It also happens to be Italian financial analyst-turned-furniture-designer Carlo Cordaro’s birthplace and now, the name of his newest passion project.
“Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village came to mind last year because I love Cebu. I love the Cebuanos, and I think this city is losing a little bit of its identity. We are going for high-rise buildings, skyscrapers—like a Hong Kong model and I don’t think this is the identity of Cebu. So I designed a building that’s below the coconut trees’ height. I wanted to reestablish some benchmark,” said Carlo, who has called this city home for 22 years.
“The design is a bit Cebuano, a bit vintage, and with Italian influences. I was in a non-negotiable mood during the design phase. I even drove my engineer crazy. But we were happy with how it turned out and we opened just last June,” he explained.
Stepping into Asmara is like discovering Carlo and his furniture factory. Every piece was designed by him and is reflective of the “form follows function” principle. An urban oasis where you can beat the bustle, the sustainable structure is surrounded by vast swaths of green. “There are more coconut trees in this 5,000-hectare property than there are from this area to Fuente,” Carlo quipped, motioning to the Banilad area where Asmara is located.
Open to everyone, the place has a restaurant and lounge, a cocktail bar, a squash court, tennis and badminton courts, a swimming pool, a yoga area and a function room that can accommodate up to 80 people. In its six months of operation, Asmara has hosted weddings, debuts, press conferences and even art exhibits.
“We really try to offer the most we can in terms of sports and lifestyle activities. When I designed the place, I would always say I want to promote yoga but in an open space. So the upstairs area is available for yoga classes throughout the week,” Carlo explained. There are also swimming classes and tennis coaches for kids, and soon, PADI courses.
“In a way, this is to convince children to get out there and not just stick to gadgets.”